Kerllen Rego has built a career out of her desire to motivate other women to live a mentally and physically healthy life. And the thing that sets her apart? Her warts-n-all approach.
Kerllen Rego is a mum and a runner. So far so nothing new, right? Well, think again. Kerllen is a woman full of surprises. Her Instagram account has a huge 227,000 followers and in May she scooped a win at the inaugural World Blogger Awards in Cannes (from 200 entries she was shortlisted to 42 winners). She gave up a teaching job to work as an influencer. She’s Brazilian but lives in the south Wales countryside. And she believes in presenting real life on social media, rather than painting a superficial perfect-life-by the- pool BS picture.
“I think I won because I’m a real person. I’m completely real – I’m not fake. I show everything I do.” That doesn’t sound very Instagram, does it? But it’s what her followers want.
Social media audiences can spot it’s not the right voice, when your photos are only professional and never personal, and when you’re posting just only positive stories rather than giving something of value to your audience.
The real deal
Kerllen rationalises in her slightly broken, charmingly spoken English, which is so likeable and full of personality in her posts: “There is a trend towards superficiality on social media. Other influencers only show what they want you to see. They don’t really give a true picture of what they’re really like. I’m a real mum. My life is just the same as other people’s and I think that’s one of the reasons why people follow me – I’m real.”
No-one helps Kerllen with her influencer role, she does it all by herself – a fact that definitely helps her maintain an authenticity. And this independent, resilient woman has always gone it alone with her running too.
Kerllen was always an active, sporty kid with a determination and commitment that is rare. She talks of how as a girl she’d walk miles in her native Brazil to ballet lessons rather than miss a session, how she’d get up at 5am every day to exercise at university (this writer didn’t know where the gym was on her campus and she was there for four years!). But, as with many a woman runner’s tale, it was when the tough times hit that running crawled out of the woodwork and offered itself as salvation.
Kerllen had moved to the UK with her husband and found herself very isolated as a new mum; no friends as she was new to the area, a wider family who were out of reach in Switzerland, a babe in arms and adrift in a foreign culture. It was tough.
What she calls the baby blues sounds like it was bordering on post-natal depression. “My weight dropped off and I cried more than I should. I tried to be optimistic but it was tough.” So she took stock: What exercise could she do with the baby? You’ve got it: the pushchairbaby- mummy combo emerged supreme. Kerllen tells us that when she ran with her daughter Carolina back in 2005, she was the only one doing that. She giggles at how women’s running has changed seismically in the past 15 years. “I became known as the woman in my village who ran pushing a buggy! No-one did it back then.
“Running became my big passion – I loved it. It was because I could do it everywhere. Wherever I went, I could run. With running, it’s so easy to go; you don’t need much equipment, all you really need is the motivation to get out there.” And of course, once she’d started running, she didn’t want to stop (more on this anon).
She has advice for women who are home alone with young children now, perhaps feeling down and lonely and lacking confidence to train – just like she was 15 years ago. “Use your mind to make things happen. Think positively and visualise that you can do something for you. You can shape your life with your thoughts. You deserve this time, it’s your time. Training will make you feel better, happier and it will improve your self-esteem. When you have a good selfesteem everything around you will get better.”
Now her daughters Carolina and Natalie are 14 and 11 years old respectively, and Kerllen still runs
every morning for at least an hour. It gives her the space she needs to think, to work things out and to come up with new ideas and inspiration for life. “It’s still a massive part of my life. And, 15 years later, it’s still helping my mental health – I’m 100 per cent sure of that.
“I’ll give you evidence. When I’m upset I go running and I just come back home when I feel better. Only a day or two ago I felt down, and I knew I needed fresh air, so I put my trainers on and went and ran for three hours. Running is definitely my therapy: I can’t imagine my life or myself without it.”
“Sometimes I have music, sometimes books, sometimes nothing. It depends on what I’m looking for from my run on that day. Running is great and flexible like that. It changes with you.”
Kerllen is in the midst of marathon training, doing half her weekly runs on the treadmill and half outside. She’s hoping to do three of the Big Six in 2020 – Tokyo in March, the London Marathon in April and hopefully the Berlin Marathon later in the year (she relies on an ambassador place at these big races). In 2021 she has her sights set on American races and completing the Big Six in the process.
She runs every day, she’s a busy mum, her work as an influencer never turns off. How does she keep strong and fit?
“Regarding injuries, I consider myself lucky. I haven’t had many injuries. Of course, as I build up my training for a marathon and cover more miles, it gets harder because I get tired, but I haven’t had injuries.”
She puts that down to her holistic healthy lifestyle (as well as to luck). For a start, she doesn’t just run. “I build up my strength in the gym as well. If you want to stay injury free, you have to lift weights and do yoga. Your legs need to be strong enough. My tip is to not just run – mix things up and make sure you stretch too.”
A good diet is really important, too. “Eating helps your body and diet is key to keeping well and injury free. Generally, I eat what I want, but for me that usually means having a healthy eating lifestyle. I favour a natural diet: I eat lots of veg and always look for balance. I don’t calorie count but I know that I run better when I’m lighter. If I run after my summer holiday I find it hard as I’ve invariably put on some weight during the break!”
Reflecting on races she’s done, what moments stand out? Maybe it’s the Brazilian in her but the passion flares up and she focuses on emotion rather than PBs. “Okay, there are two races that were very emotional for me. The first is the London Marathon. For me it was an emotional experience. It had been such a dream for me to do it and it became about more than just turning up and running on the day. It was a privilege to be there and made me think a lot about running and what it had brought to my life.
“Emotional, mental and physical – all three things came together that day and I found it very moving.”
The other one was the Paris Triathlon. “The same thing happened to me there. It was a full triathlon, not a sprint, and although I loved the cycling, I found the swimming so hard. Oh my goodness, don’t put me in the water again! It was 35?C – really hot – and the swim was in a river full of weeds! I cried after that race. I just felt very sensitive and emotional.”
She reflects on challenges to come. “I think the Tokyo Marathon in March 2020 will be huge for me. My family always comes to races with me but that won’t be the case in Tokyo and I wonder if I will find that hard emotionally. I’m really looking forward to the race as I’m going as an ambassador, but I think it will be emotional too.”
When worlds collide
With mention of being a race ambassador, our chat turns back to social media and the unlikely career Kerllen has built herself from the ground up, through her passion for running. “Being a full-time mother and teaching English as an Additional Language (EAL) to children from different schools, it’s amazing that, through my blog, I am able to share my passion for sports and fitness with others to promote a healthy, motivating lifestyle.
“I’ve always wanted to let other women know that being a parent doesn’t have to prevent them from doing what they love.”
What I’ve always wanted is to let other women know that becoming a parent doesn’t have to prevent them doing what they love
Kerllen’s essential kit
The nine key bits of gear Kerllen can’t do without
#1 Aftershokz headphones
I don’t really fancy having anything sticking in my ears, so these boneconducting ones, that sit outside the ear completely, are really fab.
#2 Gore shorts
I prefer running in shorts. I like free movements while I am running.
I can’t run without my mobile phone. I use it for music, podcasts and also my Instagram stories.
#4 Garmin watch
My Garmin watch – absolutely essential!
#5 Winter kit
My winter kit is very important too. It includes: a headband in winter to keep my forehead and ears warm and stop me getting headaches; leggings to protect the muscles (cold muscles don’t perform well and they tire more quickly; and gloves – there’s nothing worse than having freezing hands while we are running.
#6 Sports bra
A sports bar needs to be nice and tight!
#7 Fasted runs
Even though it’s not a bit of kit, it’s still an essential for me! I always run in the morning without eating before. I think that my performance is much better with an empty stomach
#8 Silva running belt
My runner’s belt, for carrying my phone. I take it with me wherever I go. It’s very important to me to have my hands free while I’m running, and I just take the mobile out once in a while to record.
#9 UA running shoes
My Under Armour Hovr running shoes. My normal size is 5.5, but I feel more comfy wearing a bigger size when I’m running so my trainers are a size 6.
Kerllen started out with her social media account back in 2012 when no-one knew about Instagram. “My family live in Switzerland and my sister Jackelinne said I should start to share my lifestyle with other people, because she said people aspired to be like me! I thought it was a good idea and I started to share recipes and bits and bobs. To start with, the account was private, for family and friends only. But then gradually people started wanting access, so I changed it to a public account.
“I guess I had a good grasp on the marketing side of social media because I had done a degree in it, but I wasn’t very experienced with computers, so it took me a good six months to get properly up and running.”
Soon Kerllen was getting recognised and liked for two things: her motivation and her passion for fitness. She still enjoys the creative space she gets from being an influencer. It enables her to share the ongoing adventures she has with her family and give readers her running tips and advice, too.
“Now I’m privileged enough to be able to choose brands that fit my lifestyle. And I’ve given up my job working in the school for foreign languages to focus on my influencer role. I’ve worked with brands such as New Balance, Garmin, Suunto and Salomon, as either a brand or race ambassador.”
What does being a race ambassador actually involve? “Being an ambassador means helping promote the race in the run-up to it and also on the day itself. For me, this means tagging the race on my training run posts, talking about the race on social media and giving tips about running it, as well as detailing my training plan. On the race day, I try to promote the race as much as possible with Instagram stories too.”
Many runners find race days stressful enough as it already – the herding, the adrenaline, the waiting – without having to focus on creating engaging content for my followers too. Kerllen, though, is fantastic at it: “I’m known as the runner who runs with the mobile phone in her hands. It’s a great way of recording the best moments of the races and gives my followers a very real insight into the experience that I had.”
Kerllen has also been a race ambassador for our very own Women’s Running Race Series in Cardiff last May. She took to the stage on race day and her motivational advice for runners bears repeating now: “Keep calm, believe that you can do it, don’t be afraid, hydrate yourself, follow your pace and stick to your goal. Run the first 10 per cent of the race slower than you normally would, with the idea that you’ll finish strong. Don’t try to go out faster than your goal pace. If you do that, you risk burning out early. Try to keep an even pace throughout the race, and save your extra energy for the final push to the finish.”
Keep calm, believe you can do it, don’t be afraid, run the first 10 per cent of the race slower than you normally would
It’s difficult to add to that. It turns out that when it comes to running, Kerllen knows exactly what she’s doing.